After you have practised the first two standing exercises of Zhan Zhuang for several months, you will notice that important changes will have started taking place in your body. Some of the blockages in the pathways of your internal energy will have been cleared. As you stand, you will begin to feel the unusual sensations of trembling and tingling as explained in Chapter 3-Your oxygen-enriched blood and Chi will be flowing faster and more vigorously throughout your system.
You are ready to move on to the next stage of your development. Since you will be generating much higher levels of energy than your body has previously been accustomed to, you need to strengthen the capacity of your system to handle and transport the new flow of power.
The ancient Chinese developed a unique set of exercises precisely for toning up the internal organs and systems. It is still practised to this day by Chinese people all over the world. It is known as Ba Duan Jin, literally translated as "Eight Strands of Brocade" and sometimes called the "Eight Fine Exercises". The exercises develop the most important systems of the body, yet can be safely practised by almost anyone of any age without fear of strain or injury.
The description of the benefits that each of the following exercises brings may seem odd. For example, it is not obvious how stretching your hands upward to the sky affects your heart and kidneys. The answer lies in the network of Chi channels (meridians) identified by Chinese medicine in the human body (see pp. 18). These are connected to your vital organs but they also run through your body as far as your fingertips and toes. Each of the Ba Duan Jin exercises intensifies the flow of energy along the full length of specific meridians and thus the complete set of exercises benefits the whole network, including the internal organs through which that energy passes. Regular practice is the ideal preparation you need to carry the "awakened dragon" of your Chi.
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